Welcome to Techie Tuesday here at More Cowbell! We’ve talked about lots of different software/computer-y/techie sorts of things in our time together. Everything from Twitter to LinkedIn, from Word to Excel. Y’all are becoming regular technical gurus over here and it makes my trainer’s heart sing the Hallelujah chorus. Seriously.
One program/skillset that’s been absent from our lineup is the Art of the Presentation. In today’s business environment, that will usually be PowerPoint on the PC or Keynote on the Mac.
It’s probably safe to assume that someday all of us want to be the next Big Name (sub in whoever that means to you). The person who presents at a Chapter meeting, a conference, or the Big Kahuna who wows the crowd at Thrillerfest or RWA.
We might wow a big crowd just by speaking and being ourselves. Because…we just naturally rock! Even though public speaking is the most well documented phobia there is. Yeah, that’s how it happens…just stand up, start talking and wow that room full of strangers.
You go with your bad Big Kahuna self…
I’m going to let you in on a not-so-big secret. That isn’t how it happens for most people.
Nope, most people are more like little ol’ professional trainer me who threw up before her first TEN classes. Most people are more like the guy who clings for dear life to the podium so his voice isn’t so shaky. Or the well-meaning presenter who darts like an angelfish from one side of the room to the other, hoping to outrun the I-HATE-PUBLIC-SPEAKING nerves.
That’s how most people feel when they get up in front of a room full of strangers. 90% of them are wishing for a bottle of Xanax and a dirty martini. I know, because I was one of them and I still have moments like that after 15 years of presenting. Every new room, with its big daunting podium, makes me blank out for a few moments.
It’s the practice and the training that help get you through it. And the people. Like writing, presenting is always about the audience.
Below are some tips to help you when it’s your turn at bat. Because a big part of being Nora Roberts and James Patterson and Ken Follett is speaking to the people who wish they were Nora or James or Ken. Its nice to learn these things while you’re still the little guy and you have a shorter distance to fall.
Tips for Effective Presentations
Below are some tips to keep on hand as you begin to prepare your own presentations.
- Check the spelling and grammar on every slide. Then check it again.
- Do not READ the presentation. Practice the presentation so you can speak from bullet points. The text should be a cue for the presenter rather than a message for the viewer.
- If the content is complex, print out the slides so the audience can take notes.
- Do not turn your back on the audience. If using a computer, try to position the monitor so you can speak while facing it.
- Give a brief overview at the start. Then present the information. Finally review important points.
- If sound effects are used in your presentation, wait until the sound has finished before you speak. If possible, pause for just a beat.
- It is often more effective to have bulleted points appear one at a time so the audience listens to the presenter rather than reading the screen.
- Use a wireless mouse or pick up the wired mouse so you can move around as you speak. A moving target (within reason – think about the angelfish analogy) helps to keep the audience’s attention.
- Limit the number of colors on a single screen (no more than 3-4/pg).
- Bright colors make small objects and thin lines stand out. However, some vibrant colors are difficult to read when projected. (Think of orange and red side-by-side in a pie chart. Ick.)
- Use no more than four colors per chart, if at all possible.
- Check all colors on a projection screen before the actual presentation. They may project differently on different projectors and VERY differently than on your computer.
- Select sans-serif fonts such as Arial or Helvetica. Avoid serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Palatino as they are sometimes more difficult to read.
- Use no font size smaller than 24 point in a large conference room.
- Clearly label each slide. Use a larger font (35-45 points) or different color for the title.
- Use a single sans-serif font for most of the presentation. Different colors, sizes and styles (bold, underline) are used sparingly to add impact.
- Avoid italicized fonts as they are difficult to read quickly.
- Use dark text on light background or light text on dark background. However, dark backgrounds sometimes make it difficult for some people to read the text.
- Do not use all caps except for titles.
- Try to shoot for no more than 6-8 words per line.
- For bullet points, use the 6 x 6 Rule. One thought per line with no more than 6 words per line and no more than 6 lines per slide. Trust me on this one.
To test the font: Stand six feet back from the monitor and see if you can read the slide.
Graphics and Design (many points here…sorry)
- Keep the background consistent and subtle.
- When using charts or graphs, use only enough text to explain the graphic clearly.
- Keep the design clean and uncluttered.
- Leave empty space around the text and graphics.
- Use quality clipart and use it sparingly. The graphic should relate to and enhance the topic of the slide.
- Try to use the same style graphics throughout the presentation (e.g. cartoon, photographs)
- Limit the number of graphics on each slide.
- Check all graphics on a projection screen before the actual presentation
- Avoid flashy graphics and noisy animation effects unless they relate directly to the slide. Massive animation = Death By PowerPoint (or Keynote)
- Limit the types of transitions used (def: how a slide or bullet appears). It is often better to use only one kind so the audience knows what to expect.
What is your experience with public speaking? Is it easy or hard for you? Are there tips that help you get through it? What is your biggest phobia? (Mine is heights…long story). Do you use presentation software like Keynote or PowerPoint? Is the program giving you trouble? (Do tell…)
I look forward to hearing from you on this fine Techie Tuesday!